Seeing light at the end of the pier


One year from today we may once again be able to walk and even fish off Malibu Pier, according to Russ Guiney, district superintendent for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, owners of the pier.

Malibu Pier, which was declared unsafe and closed to public use in 1997, is scheduled for rehabilitation and repair on or near July 1, funded by $900,000 set aside by the department for the repair.

This, the first phase of the repair, should make the pier structurally safe and open it to pedestrian traffic, Guiney said at a recent Chamber of Commerce event held at Duke’s Malibu Restaurant, giving the community an update. Barring any unforeseen problems, this phase is estimated to take about a year. Until some of the planks are removed and the understructure examined, however, it remains just that — an estimate. The department also intends to tear down what was the prep kitchen for Alice’s Restaurant.

The full repair and restoration of the pier, which would include repair and rehabbing all of the buildings, both on the ocean end and the land end, could take about 2-1/2 years. The second phase would include repair of the buildings on the ocean end of the pier, which housed an old tackle shop, a snack bar and the boat landing, all of which the state’s engineers consider to be vulnerable. The last phase would include the landward end of the pier, where Alice’s Restaurant was located.

Guiney said he thought the state allocated enough money, $900,000, to complete the first phase, but the overall job, which includes the complete restoration, would cost between $4 million to $4.7 million, and that would require the participation of the city of Malibu and the County of Los Angeles.

Last year, the city and county had negotiated for the city to take over the pier, but the city balked and that deal blew apart because the county contribution of $2.9 million came with a hook — the county wanted the city to contribute $125,000 annually toward defraying the cost of maintaining Surfrider Beach, and the city would have had to pay back the $2.9 million over a period of years.

Recently, the city hired a consultant to review the proposals. The consultant concluded essentially that the amount of rentable space made the economics of the pier rather questionable. It recommended that the city not buy the pier but instead consider an alternative where $1,000,000 or so from the 1996 Prop A Bond funds would be made available to the state to fix the pier buildings only, which the city wouldn’t have to repay. According to City Manager Harry Peacock, the city is leaning toward that option, provided the state sets up a sinking fund of approximately $95,000 per year as the city’s consultants have recommended, so that the city has some assurances that the pier will stay open in the future. Peacock indicated the state and the city were working to get a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed before the end of this fiscal year in June. They need to ink some sort of state/city deal to preserve another $150,000 that the Coastal Conservancy has put up, providing it can be done this fiscal year.

Additionally, Guiney indicated the state recently had discussions with county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office to see if the original $2.9 million, which had been pledged by Supervisor Ed Edelman, was still available. As of now, Guiney had neither a positive yes or a positive no.

Guiney said it was his view that restoring the historical pier, with its limited amount of rental space, couldn’t be much more then a break-even proposition. Guiney seemed to indicate, because of the extensive amount of repair and restoration it will take to reopen the pier and ultimately the restaurant, which is really the only revenue producer, it would happen only if all three entities — the state, the county and the city — contributed money, as none of them had the funds to do it alone.